Are you teaching Sight Words this year and not sure where to start? Teaching Sight Words can be tough! Especially without a curriculum or supporting resources. Trying to figure out the right order to teach the sight words in, which activities to use, how often to teach them are just some of the many things Teachers have to do.
My first year of teaching was just that! I didn’t have the resources to teach my students Sight Words. My students really struggled and so did I. It wasn’t until I was in my 2nd year of teaching Kindergarten that I finally figured out the system that works best for me.
I made A LOT of mistakes my first year teaching Sight Words (you can read more about what mistakes I made at “6 Mistakes I Made Teaching Sight Words”). But that’s okay! Mistakes are a part of the learning process! The point is that we learn from our mistakes. And share with others so they can learn too!
And that is why my goal is to give you 5 Tips that you will need to teach Sight Words this year successfully.
That way you don’t have to make a bunch of mistakes. Like I did.
So let’s get started!
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1. A Plan
One of the first things you needed to do BEFORE teaching sight words: is to plan. When I started teaching Sight Words I had NO idea what I was doing! Let along how and when I was going to teach Sight words.
My District gave me the list of Sight Words I needed to teach that year. And I was so surprised when I realized that none of our curricula covered it! Now not only did I not have any idea how to teach Sight Words, but I didn’t have a lot of resources to support me.
If you read my blog “6 Mistakes I made Teaching Sight Words” then you would have read that one of my first mistakes was not planning my Sight Words. That’s right I did not plan my Sight Words out at all!
I was not being consistent, and I would prioritize other things over teaching Sight Words. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even get to teaching them, which really hurt me and my students in the long run. My students had a hard time passing their assessments and being engaged.
That’s why I recommend planning out your sight words in advance! It will save you time and it will help the effectiveness of your teaching!
Here is how I did it:
First I grabbed my list of 120 Sight Words. (This was given to me, if you don’t have one you can use mine by clicking on the photo above or make your own).
Next I thought about if my District grades by Quarters or Semesters. My District grades by Quarters (or 4 times a year).
So then I divide the amount of words I needed to teach (120) by how many times a year I would be submitting grades (4). Which came out to be 120 divided by 4.
That equals 30. Which means every Quarter I need to teach 30 sight words.
Next I figured a Quarter is 9-10 Weeks. I have 30 words every quarter I need to teach divided by how many weeks (9 weeks for me) which equals 3 to 4 sight words a week.
This is where you have to decide how you want to split up the words.
I decided that on the 4th week I would review as well as the 8th and 9th week. That left me with 5 words a week to learn. I have them organized like so:
I then decided to take it one step further and divide it by day. This really allowed me to zone in on one word. That way my students really understood the word before we got to the next one. I noticed that when I worked on all 5 words for 5 days in a row my students would often mix up the words. This way I could do more in depth activities on each word.
My students did so much better on their assessments when I taught a word a day and really focused on the individual characteristics of each word. (I should note that I often review on Friday’s all of the words using a Kahoot! or Sight Word Bingo).
So now I only focus on one word a day. Like so:
Again, you do not have to use my method. This is just how I did it. The reason I feel that it is important to share this is because I had no idea how to do this starting out. I felt like I was the only one who struggled with splitting up the words in a way that made sense and was effective.
I also decided to split my Sight Words up this way because it kept me accountable. My students knew exactly what to expect from me and really looked forward to their “word of the day.”
Through this process I was able to become consistent. And then something amazing happened: My students began to hold me accountable on Teaching Sight Words everyday! Not only were my students engaged but they were also expectant on the consistency this method provided. In fact, by the end of the year my students were practically able to teach the lessons on their own!
2. Family Involvement
The next thing you’ll need is to get your Families involved.
My first year of teaching, I was terrified to talk to Families. Let alone ask them for help. But I realized the more involved my Families were, the happier they were with my teaching! And I was surprised by the reaction! Some of my parents were eager to help. It made me regret not involving them a lot sooner.
Family involvement actually made my students more engaged. My Students were also excited to learn their Sight Words because they knew their Families would ask them how they were doing! And it was a way for them to be accountable of their learning. This also really helped the overall outcome of my student’s success.
So, let me show you what I did:
I made these handouts (picture above) and sent them home to my Parents. What I would do is I would send these out on Monday in my student’s Agendas. Some of them would practice these outside of the classroom as well. Then on Friday’s I would check off the ones my students got correct! On the bottom I would write what words we would learn the following week so they could prepare over the weekend.
I loved how simple and easy these were. They did not take a lot of time to do and as my students got older, I started having them write the new Sight Words themselves! (Later I’m going to talk about how you can get these for Free!).
Put it in your newsletter!
I sent home a monthly newsletter of upcoming events, etc. and I have a section where I put what sight words we are learning that month. That way my Families could keep track of which Sight Words we were learning and when. This allowed my parents to stay informed on what we were learning that month and to know exactly what was going on in the classroom.
Doing both of these things allowed my parents to see the words several times. Some of them would even practice the Sight Words at home! Even though I didn’t require it as homework, a lot of my parents would practice them when they had extra time or had finished their Homework for the day.
Flashcards are essential to teaching Sight Words!
You can use them in the beginning of the lesson to go over the words you are learning that week/day. They are especially amazing for Whole Group. I have a class set that I use everyday to review. Then I pull out the specific Sight Word that we will be using for that day and discuss it.
They are also great for activities! You can turn them into games or send them home for homework. Flashcards are amazing because they have multiple uses! I love using them because you can do a TON of activities with them. And they are low prep!
Here are some of the things I use my flashcards for:
- Whole Group Review
- The Matching Game
- Go Fish!
- Fly Swat the Sight Word
- Set for Homework
(Flashcards are super easy to make but I have some Free ones here that you are more than welcome to use!)
Okay, so I have to be honest. My first year, I did not use activities. That’s right. I only used Flashcards. I only reviewed the Sight Words with Flashcards during Reading Instruction, and that was it!
Big mistake. Please do not do that! My students had a hard time my first year. And it was because I wasn’t exposing them to Sight Words enough.
They say on average, a person needs to see something 5 times to memorize it. So if you were like me and only showed them the sight word ONCE, that is not being effective.
You need activities. When I started using activities in the classroom, my students were more engaged. That’s because learning was fun again! My students also did A LOT better on their assessments. Also in their writing in general. This is because they were exposed to the content more than once. I personally use at least one station in my centers for sight words. That way I can guarantee that my students will see it at least one more time.
Here are some activities that would be perfect for the classroom:
- Go Fish! and The Match Game! (all you need is flashcards)
- Worksheets (I have some here that are Free!)
- Games! These are the ones I do on Friday’s for “Fun Friday”: Paint the Sight Word, Kahoot! (Kahoot’s! are SO easy to make and perfect for Distance Learning!), and Kaboom! (All you need is popsicle sticks and a marker)
It’s no surprise that if you want to measure your student’s progress, you have to have assessments. Here is what NOT TO DO: I only tested my Students at the end of each quarter. My Students would struggle with their tests because I only gave them one test. Please, please, please don’t do this.
What I ended up doing, was I actually started Progress Monitoring their Sight Words every Friday. So every Friday I would test them and send them home! That way their family knew how they did and what to work on!
The best part: I would keep data on which sight word they knew. That way when the big test came, I knew that they already knew it.
Disclaimer: That doesn’t mean I NEVER reviewed with them. Of course I had to review with them. Otherwise, they would have forgotten the words over the weekend. I reviewed constantly. But I also had that data so when grades were due I knew they already knew that word.
Plus, my students were less stressed because they had practiced every Friday. To them it was just another Friday!
So here’s some resources you can use:
- You can get the Sight Word Lists I used by signing up below
- Kahoot! (This resource is completely Free and amazing!)
- Make your own amazing assessment
‘Wait 6? But, thought you said 5!’
I know, I just have so much to say and I want to be as helpful as possible. The best is for last! And that is why the last thing you need to teach Sight Words is PASSION!
I’m going to be completely honest. The BIGGEST reason my students had such a hard time my first couple years of teaching is because I was not passionate about what I taught. My students could sense when I was genuinely excited. And when I was completely faking it! They can tell, trust me!
That’s why the last thing you need is passion and genuine excitement to try these things with your Students. They are amazing little learners. And if you blink, you might just miss the growth.
So, be Present and don’t blink!
Thank you so much for reading my Blog Post!
I look forward to hearing from you on what you think is important for teaching Sight Words. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comment section below!
The Present Teacher